Anti-layoff, tax protest in France prompts arson

Breaking News November 03, 2013 00:00

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Paris (dpa) - Demonstrators protesting layoffs and rising taxes set a toll bridge on fire and threw stones at police Saturday in north-western France.

   Protesters threw rocks near the barricaded offices of the prefect in Quimper, capital of the Finistere department of Brittany. Police responded with tear gas.
   Outside Quimper, demonstrators set tyres on fire to light the bridge.
   Many of the protesters wore red caps as a symbol of the Bretons' historical resistance to taxes imposed by the "Sun King," Louis XIV. They held signs in Quimper that said, "Right to work," "Stop the taxes" and "The French are no milk cows."
   Protest organizers said more than 30,000 people took part in the demonstration. Authorities said nearly 10,000 turned out in Quimper.
   Mass layoffs have been occurring for months in Brittany at poultry producers, swine abattoirs and electronics facilities.
  Carhaix Mayor Christian Troadec said Brittany had lost about 8,000 industrial and food production jobs in the past year.
   An ecological tax placed on trucks has also angered the Bretons. The Socialist government of President Francois Hollande has put the tax on ice, but protesters demanded that it be abolished altogether.
  Food producers in Brittany, one of France's food baskets, complained the tax would squeeze their already wafer-thin profit margins and would come on top of plant closures that have already
occurred in their industry.
  Hollande has seen his popularity ratings drop to the lowest any French president has seen in the past half century in part because of the tax hikes implemented by his government. They have amounted to 70 billion euros (95 million dollars) in the past three years.
   Professional associations, unions and farmers groups called Saturday's protest. Hundreds of police were deployed to discourage unrest.
   Similar protests last weekend led to anti-tax riots in Brittany, traditionally a bastion of the Socialist Party.

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